City buses aim to improve operations with new technologies

A number of city buses parked for almost two months near Lungtenzampa School has resumed plying the Thimphu city routes with the schools reopening last week for the 2017 academic year and construction work once again picking up pace.

According to the director of Thimphu City Bus Service, Sonam Dendup, some of the buses were pulled out of operation during the winter months because a majority of commuters are students and construction workers. During winter, many of the buses were seen operating empty which prompted the management to halt some buses to cut unnecessary expenditure. The city bus operator is currently working on properly channeling existing initiatives on frequency, timing and operations.

To make ticketing more convenient, the operator is planning to gradually introduce and upscale the smart card system for all routes. “In fact, we have already done the piloting with support from United Nations Development Programme under the Low Emission Capacity Building Programme (LECB) for one route and a bus,” said Sonam Dendup. “The initiative was a success and we got positive feedback from commuters.”

The smart card system will also address revenue leakages and safety of conductors.

A study commissioned by the UN systems in Bhutan found that the transport sector is one of the major contributors to Greenhouse Gas emissions in Bhutan and use of public transport can be one of the best measures to fulfill Bhutan’s commitment to carbon neutrality and also ease traffic congestion in the city.

The City Bus Service director said most of their services are affected due to absence of proper bus stops and shelters and they are therefore working closely with the Thimphu Thromde, international donors and other government agencies. Experts from World Bank have identified locations to construct bus stops in the city that incorporate Bhutanese architecture.

Sonam Dendup said that City Bus service is studying the Expected time of Arrival (ETA) for the current 140 bus stops within the city using mobile Global Positioning System (GPS) with assistance from South Korea. “Once we have ETA firmed out, we will have sorted timing for bus at each and every location,” he said. The study is expected to go on for another few months.

The City bus service in Thimphu caters to around 6000-7000 passengers with more than 36,000 residents using taxis on a daily basis. There are 15 major routes on which city bus is operating.

As of last year, there were more than 83,004 vehicles in the country of which more 43,043 were in the capital according to the Road Safety and Transport Authority.

There are currently 50 buses including 3 buses at Phuntsholing and the recently procured 18 new buses for city transport in the capital.

About Sonam Yangdon

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